The Master of the Brave - Chapter 80
Chapter 80 – What lurks in the darkness of the Imperial City (VII)
“Again, what a coincidence.”
Laura spoke to Wynn as he walked beside her, pulling a donkey while also carrying the groceries.
“We were surprised too. We didn’t expect to see Laura-san and Lina-chan in a place like this again.”
“Wynn-kun, thank you for carrying our groceries. Are they heavy?”
“No, it’s fine.”
Wynn walked behind her back carrying food, such as the bread Laura bought at the market, and miscellaneous daily necessities.
It had been a long time since Wynn, Leticia, Laura and Ifelina had last seen each other. Ifelina was delighted, and anyway, they decided to have a quiet chat after Laura had finished doing everything she had pending in the Imperial City.
After guiding them to Laura’s stall in the market, Seri returned to the Wandering Bird’s Nest after incidentally stocking up for the inn, as she still had work to do. Wynn was killing time, helping Seri stock up and carrying groceries, while Leticia and Cornelia were helping Laura while playing with Lina.
In addition to the lovely Lina, there were Leticia and Cornelia, with their graceful beauty, which had earned them fame in the market, and people gathered to watch the two girls, and Laura’s stall was more crowded than ever. The goods she had prepared was already sold out when Wynn returned from carrying Seri’s groceries, and Laura was disappointed, saying, “I should have brought more goods”.
“Would you guys like some lunch?”
“Not at all, we’d just be a nuisance.”
“At all, the more the better. Besides, Lina will love it.”
Laura looked fondly at Lina, who was walking happily in front of her, with Leticia and Cornelia holding hands. They did not share a blood relationship, but the eyes with which Laura looked at Lina were those of a mother.
“With Lina by my side all the time, I didn’t notice, but as for the time, I guess I’m getting older. Wynn-kun, who was so small, is now taller than me…”
“Hahaha, I hope I’ve grown not only in height, but also mentally.”
“Letty-chan has also grown up. Time really flies, doesn’t it?”
Lina had only grown a little since Wynn and the others met Laura. Seeing them so much older, Laura murmured in a sincere tone.
Off the street, down a lane, and through several farms and pastures, was Laura’s house. Originally, she had a house in the Imperial City, but when she took Lina in, Laura began living with her on this farm.
“It’s a small house, but come in.”
It was Laura’s house they remembered. When Wynn and his friends entered the house, the brown sheepdog that had been sleeping face down on the dirt floor squirmed and just wiggled its ears.
“I missed you…”
“I’ll get you something to eat. Make yourselves at home.”
“Mom, can I take off my coat?”
Ifelina, who had been petting the sheepdog’s head since she ran home, turned to look at Laura.
Laura looked at Wynn and Leticia with a concerned look.
“It’s okay. She’s someone you can trust. She won’t tell anyone.”
Wynn assured her, and Laura nodded to Lina.
Unable to understand Wynn’s interaction with Laura, the expression Cornelia showed Wynn was one of confusion. Ifelina, who had obtained Laura’s permission to remove her coat, took off her thick tunic-like coat as she entered the room from the dirt floor at a trot.
A sigh of admiration came out of Cornelia’s mouth. A pair of pure white wings growing out of Ifelina’s back seemed to spill outward as she removed her coat…
“…I had heard of Ifelina-chan from Wynn-kun’s stories, and the avian race has appeared in folklore and tales… she is so fantastic and beautiful.”
Ifelina was a girl of the avian race. She looked just like a human, but her beautiful appearance and the wings on her back were her distinguishing features. They were a much longer-lived and slower-developing race than humans, and they had magical powers that rivaled the High Elves, a noble elven race.
They made their home in the high mountains or deep in the forest and rarely interacted with other races. It was said that on rare occasions they came down to human settlements, but most had heard of them only in myths, though only a few had actually met them.
They could manipulate the atmosphere at will, and the highest-ranking mage among them, who was given the title of “Celestial Demon”, was said to be able to control the weather. However, because of their powers, they had been almost completely wiped out by the demons, and it was believed that there were few survivors.
Some even compared them to gods and spirits, and they were revered not only by humans, but also by other races such as elves, dwarves and even beastmen. However, there were always people with evil intentions, and if there was known to be a survivor of an elusive race that was said to be extinct, there would be people who would try to acquire it for a ridiculous price. If the person coming was an adult, Ifelina would not have the strength to defend herself, as she was still a child. Laura, who took care of Ifelina, whose village was destroyed by demons in an incident a few years ago and had been orphaned, was raising her as a substitute for her mother, making her wear thick clothes, hiding her wings when she left the house. She regretted having to make Ifelina feel so restricted, but it was unavoidable.
For lunch, Laura prepared the same chicken and vegetable stew that Wynn and Leticia had eaten as children, and soft wheat bread she had bought at the market.
“I hope it’s to your liking.”
“No, it’s a pleasure to eat it.”
“I missed this stew too.”
Wynn began to eat as quickly as possible.
“There’s more if you want seconds.”
“Good for you, Letty.”
“I won’t eat as much as I used to!”
“Come to think of it, I remember that time, Letty ate a lot of tasty food…”
“Geez, why does everyone talk like I’m a glutton…?”
When Wynn and Laura teased her, they all laughed at the sight of Letty hanging her shoulders.
As she watched, Laura remembered the day she met them. Wynn was caring for a young Leticia as if he were a mother bird. When Wynn went out into the field on his own to investigate, Leticia’s atmosphere changed completely, as if her whole being was different. Her emotions were muted, and she became expressionless, like a doll.
When she saw the beautiful, grown-up Leticia of today, she did not see the slightest trace of those days. As on that occasion, she was sitting near Wynn and laughing with her friends. In the end, Laura couldn’t know what happened to Leticia as a child, but by spending time with Wynn, she was able to put it behind her.
Laura moved her eyes to Ifelina, who was sitting next to Leticia and eating her stew. Freed from her thick, heavy clothes, Ifelina stretched her arms and wings, eating the delicious stew and happily talking to her friends who had visited her after a long time.
The wings with which she would fly freely through the sky were still growing on little Ifelina’s back.
As Leticia spent her time happily now, she wondered if the day would come when she would be able to flap her wings freely in the sky as well.
Because of the race difference, Ifelina’s growth had been very gradual. Still, one day she would grow up. Laura couldn’t help but hope that her beloved daughter would be able to fly freely in the sky when that time came.
“Hey, are you sure the noble’s daughter is going to pass?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“If you’re lying, I’ll kill you.”
Beyond the slums that stretched along the walls of the Imperial City. An area of fields and meadows that led away from the city streets. There was a large warehouse built along a road that ran through the center. It must have been used by the owner of the farm in this area, as there were farming tools in it. It was the perfect hideout for ambushing and attacking people in this open, cleared area. And now, with the information Kelvin leaked from his connection —that a noble’s daughter was making a secret trip to the farm with her escort— many men had gathered.
“Where did you get such a juicy story?”
“It’s easy. It’s simply information from the mercenary group I belonged to. It’s true I didn’t get along with my superiors, but it’s not like I broke connections with all of them. I just bought them a drink or something to get their tongues wagging.”
“In the first place, why would a noble’s daughter wander into a place like this?”
“Who knows? I can’t say for sure. However, I don’t think it’s such a big deal. People of such noble birth must have a way of thinking that is beyond the comprehension of us lowly folk.”
“Hmm, all right. If what you say is true, it’s going to be quite a haul. A noble’s daughter fetches a high price.”
The bald man nodded to Kelvin.
“By the way, if this job is successful and they investigate where the noble girl’s story leaked from, the investigation will easily lead them to me. I’ll never be able to work for the Mercenary Guild again.”
“Yes, I know. Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to introduce you to exactly what you’ll need.”
“Thank you very much.”
“You’ll find that, if you’re going to risk your life, it’s better to work in this world where you can earn a lot of money than to work for the Mercenaries Guild.”
Bowing his head politely, Kelvin turned around and called out to the men who were playing card games to kill time. The bald man was looking at Kelvin who immediately pulled out a small amount of money and started betting.
Most of the men who gathered in this warehouse in a hurry after hearing Kelvin’s story were ruffians who were out to steal and had the attitude of any thug you would encounter if you walked ten steps through the slums. However, among the men who just exuded a sense of violence, there were some who had a swashbuckling vibe mixed in. They stood alone by a wall, uncrowded, away from the men playing cards. They were not carried away by the tension before work, not wasting time talking, just controlling their own minds. The men were sent by an organization linked to the bald man. Therefore, their remuneration was relatively high, and their skills were guaranteed. And from the bald man’s point of view, Kelvin, the new player in the card game, was of the same type as those men, or even something more than that. It wasn’t that he played cards to disguise his nervousness, but that he mimicked his surroundings, pretending to be casual.
He wondered if it was a matter of familiarity with the place, or if it was a matter of personality.
Above all, the occasional look of madness in his eyes was something only those who had escaped death on many battlefields could possess. Even the bald man, who knew many daredevils, was one of the few who had seen such people.
‘Now, if this guy’s skills are as good as they look… I’m going to make good money.’
Work had to be done right away, but talent like this could be sold at a high price. The bald man had already begun to make in his brain a list of organizations to connect him with.
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